A father’s perspective on sexual violence against women

Men need to stop being defensive and start taking responsibility

Over half of Canadian women report having experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16
Over half of Canadian women report having experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16

When I decided that it was finally time for me to write on this subject, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. The issue is inherently complex because of one thing: I’m a man.

Sexual assault, harassment, objectification, and double standards are things that — as a middle-class white heterosexual man — I can only offer opinions of, not insight.

I know that for many this subject is incredibly painful, but I also know that as a man it’s important that I am part of the discussion. Not in a “pound my chest” sort of way, but rather because I feel that it’s time more men stand in solidarity with women to say “enough is enough.”

Almost anyone can say they have an important woman in their life. A mother, sister, wife, cousin, daughter, teacher, friend — we all have women in our lives that mean more to us than anything.

My daughter is that for me.

I look at the state of the world, the people in it, and things they’re willing to say or do, and a rage begins to boil inside me. A rage in knowing that, based on of our history as a species, it’s more likely than not that my little girl will face prejudice or worse simply because she was born a girl. Nothing else.

The fact that at some point in her life — regardless of her accomplishments, how brilliant she is, or what she’s contributed to society — a man will either diminish her or brutalize her, for no other reason than that she is a woman, is reason enough for me to stand atop my soap box to bring another voice to this long-needed conversation.

Locally, the conversation has been strong on social media and obviously last week’s “Drawing The Line” event at The Venue in Peterborough continued to shine a light on a subject that needs to be a dinner table discussion. However, the issue goes far deeper than social media conversations.

I apologize in advance to women who read this with whom my words may not resonate, but I will plead ignorance before I offer my opinions.

Four days ago the “Drawing The Line” event took place in Peterborough. The event was organized by local comedian Kristal Jones to promote the “Draw The Line” campaign of the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres.

On Twitter, Maryam Monsef — who recently entered the race for Liberal nominee in the upcoming Federal election — quoted Jocasta Boone (the event’s MC) as saying, “9/10 women in this room will experience sexual violence in their lifetime”.

The response of a self-proclaimed "Proud Anti-Feminist" from Tennessee to a tweet from a Peterborough event in support of the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre

Then yesterday, three days after the post was made, a self-proclaimed “Proud Anti-Feminist” questioned the statistics in Maryam’s tweet. He continued to troll Maryam and even had the audacity to ask, “What about the male victims?”

Now, I am not diminishing male victims of sexual assault for a minute. Anyone who suffers at the hands of another deserves respect and justice. However, seeing as this particular troll later referred to the need for “people telling the truth before we can fix the problem”, I’m assuming that his point about male victims was referring to when a false claim is made against a man, and not referring to men who’ve suffered sexual assaults.

This is where the problems begin to spiral and show themselves.

First things first: whether the stats are 9 in 10 or 1 in 10, obviously there is a problem. To say that there isn’t a problem with sexual violence against women because not enough of them are being assaulted is simply ridiculous. Anyone being assaulted is cause for concern and change.

But if the numbers are so off, how is it that I knew three girls in high school alone who were sexually assaulted? Keep in mind many of these assaults go untold.

I have witnessed a situation in which a man was accused of sexual assault when he was in fact not guilty of anything. I watched a system assume guilt before the gathering of evidence or fact, and treat an innocent man like an animal, dragging this man through the mud to hell and back again. While this is incredibly sad, the reality is that for every man who shares a story like this, there are countless women who were actually assaulted.

Here’s the thing: men have run the free world since we lived in caves. We have driven the globe into wars over deities and race. We have relegated woman as “subservient” and “gave” them the right to vote and drive. We have thrived as the dominant gender of our species and did so at a massive cost.

If for a moment you cannot respect or acknowledge that, then you probably still support Rob Ford and refer to your significant other as “the wife”.

If you are a white middle-class heterosexual male, then you know nothing of the prejudice that goes on in our world or the difficulty women face every day. People who think that men need representation in a world we’ve taken control over since the dawn of time are in deep denial of reality.

Until the day comes that you can look your own daughter in the eyes and admit you have no bloody clue what it’s like for her to navigate the world, you will simply be lying to yourself.

Our job as friends, sons, brothers, and fathers is not to open our mouths in shallow defense of ourselves but rather in unison with our loved ones to change the way we all think. We need to pick our words wisely and demonstrate healthy relationships in front of our children and their friends. We need to hold accountable the individuals and organizations that commit these crimes or harbour the people who do.

Truth is, we don’t need to question the accuracy of the stats, Mr. Troll. We need to question ourselves and ask if we’re doing enough to make the world a safe and accepting place for everyone.

The numbers aren’t the problem, Mr. Troll. The problem is you.